Court to Unseal Files in South Dakota Billionaire Child Porn Probe

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The South Dakota Supreme Court on Wednesday moved to unseal search warrants in connection with a reported child porn probe investigation into the state’s richest man, T. Denny Sanford.

Sanford was not explicitly named in the court filings, which referred instead to an “implicated individual.” He has been widely reported as the subject of the investigation, however, and his lawyer was listed as the appellant’s representative. He has not been charged with any crimes.

Two media outlets that had sought the release of Sanford’s records, ProPublica and South Dakota’s Argus Leader, were also listed in the filings. ProPublica was first to report on the investigation last year.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Sanford seemed unaware that a decision had been published. “I don’t know anything about it,” he told The Daily Beast. He declined to comment further.

In its decision, the court wrote that “the question we confront here is not a close one,” and found that the law required the documents to be publicly accessible.

The judges said that the search warrants will be released following “the expiration of time” to file a request for a rehearing or another petition. A staffer at South Dakota Supreme Court said that appellant parties have 20 days to file for a rehearing.

According to the court papers, law enforcement first obtained a search warrant in the case in Dec. 2019. Three months later, in March 2020, they obtained an additional four search warrants against the “implicated individual.”

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“The warrants were to be served upon internet or cellular data providers,” not the “implicated individual” himself or his property, filings said.

A lawyer for Sanford, former South Dakota attorney general Marty Jackley, previously said of the investigation: “Although we know very little about any state or federal inquiry relating to Mr. Sanford, we do know those authorities responsible for investigating allegations obviously did not find information or evidence that supported or resulted in any criminal charges.”

Multiple outlets have since reported that South Dakota’s current attorney general believed there was sufficient evidence to charge Sanford, though the case was referred to federal authorities since the alleged activity happened across multiple states.

The probe has not deterred some organizations from taking Sanford’s money. In September, for instance, he gifted another $350 million to his namesake health system in South Dakota.

In August, he also gifted $1 million to a Koch-affiliated Super PAC, Americans for Prosperity Action. A golf tournament bearing his name also went off without incident in South Dakota last month, as The Daily Beast reported.

The state’s embattled governor, Kristi Noem, has maintained ties to Sanford, too. In March, they teamed on a scholarship program for South Dakota students, which included a $100 million gift from Sanford and his companies and new legislation from the state. He reportedly attended the bill’s signing.

Sanford famously said in 2007 that he wanted “to die broke” by giving away his entire fortune. At the time he was worth $2.8 billion, Forbes estimated. He is worth $3.4 billion today.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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